176 HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION children, and indeed rather impatient with those who came to him for elementary instruction in a subject like Greek, he entered into the problems of method in much detail and with great practical wisdom. His discussion of the place of grammar in the teaching of literature—to take only a single point—is masterly : " I must make my conviction clear," he says in his admirable treatise On the Right Method of Instruction, " that whilst a know- ledge of the rules of accidence and syntax is most necessary to every student, still they should be as few, as simple, and as care- fully framed as possible. I have no patience with the stupidity of the average teacher of grammar who wastes precious years in hammering rules into children's heads. For it is not by learning rules that we acquire the power of speaking a language, but by daily intercourse with those accustomed to express themselves with exactness and refinement, and by the copious reading of the best authors. Upon this latter point we do well to choose such works as are not only sound models of style, but are instructive by reason of their subject-matter."* In accordance with these principles, he insists that grammar should always be kept strictly subordinate to content. Formal grammar is necessary, but it should be preceded by an informal acquaintance with the language through conversation about common objects. And even at a later stage, after the foundations of a thorough knowledge of the languages have been laid by constant exercises in composi- tion on all kinds of subjects, the classical literatures should be brought into relation to ordinary affairs by combining them with the study of mythology, agriculture, military science, geography, history, astronomy, natural history and similar arts and sciences. The study of language is as barren as the scholastic rhetoric unless it develops the intelligence of the learner and increases his knowledge of the facts of life, It must not be thought, however, that Erasmus was only concerned with questions of method. The details of educational work were undoubtedly much in his thoughts, but he was saved from the narrowness of vision which comes from overmuch absorption in practical matters by his ability to see these details in relation to the main purposes of education. He never forgot the wider issues of life involved in the practice of instruction, or lost sight of the end in the consideration of the means. This * Woodward, Ehwmttf concerning Education, pp. 163-4.